1. How does the cord blood collection process work?
We will send you an information pack that will contain everything you need to read, complete and return to us in order to join Biovault Family. Once you are entirely happy and we have received everything we will then take the first payment for the kit. We will then send you a collection kit for you to take with you to hospital when you go into labour, as soon as you sign up with us.
2. What is removed when you process the cord blood? Does it contain anything useful?
Along with the majority of stem cell cord banks (both public and private) Biovault volume reduces the stored samples – concentrating the sample by removing spare plasma and red blood cells by a centrifugation and isolation processes, and freezing only the nucleated cell population, included in which are the stem cells.
The red blood cells discarded are of no therapeutic benefit. If a cord blood sample is stored whole without removing the red blood cells the sample will have to be washed before it can be transplanted as the red blood cells will fragment during the freezing process and are then toxic if transplanted.
The washing process to remove the red blood cells will then cause a significant loss of the valuable stem cells, this is why public and private banks around the world volume reduce then freeze the cells. Plasma will contain some growth factors which help stem cells to survive and grow. These growth factors are produced constantly in much larger amounts by other cells in the body, such as those lining blood vessels and many are available as non-plasma derived manufactured products e.g. erythropoietin, and GCSF. The amount of erythropoietin and GCSF contained in the discarded plasma is therapeutically insignificant.
3. Can you use the plasma to treat haemophilia?
The plasma is discarded as there are no cells in it. Whilst plasma contains some useful proteins the volume of plasma from an average cord blood harvest is not a therapeutically relevant or useful volume.
Many plasma-derived proteins previously used to treat disease now have non blood product derived, manufactured alternatives e.g. the clotting factors 8 and 9 are now never obtained from plasma when used to treat haemophilia A and B. Some cord blood banks store cord blood samples whole , however in order to utilise any potential benefit from stored plasma the entire sample would need to be defrosted and processed thereby destroying the more valuable stem cells.
4. What are mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)?
Cells which have the capacity to mature into tissues such as muscle, bone, skin and fat, and also play a role in mediating the body’s inflammatory response to damaged and injured cells.
MSCs have the potential to play a role in the treatment of disease and considerable research is focused towards their use in regenerative medicine and the treatment of disease such as heart disease, stroke, neurological conditions, autoimmune disease and injury. MSCs are found in cord blood, but cord tissue (Wharton’s jelly) has significantly more MSCs.
5. Why store the umbilical cord tissue?
There is an ever expanding field of research devoted to discovering further cell types in the cord, and uses for them. Perhaps of most importance is that the tissue of the umbilical cord is a rich source of mesenchymal stem cells. Biovault offer to freeze both cord blood – for the haematopoietic stem cells, and whole cord tissue -to facilitate the future potential of MSCs. Scientists continue to research the best methods to extract and grow cord stem cells and so better techniques may be developed than are used currently.
6.What happens to the mesenchymal stem cells in the cord blood?
MSCs are cells which contain a nucleus and therefore any MSCs present in the cord blood sample will be frozen with the haematopoietic stem cells and other mature white blood cells during the volume reduction process. However isolating and growing the MSC from cord blood would result in the loss of the haematopoietic stem cells.
7. How do you plan for the collection on the big day?
When you go into labour, if you are using a healthcare professional arranged through us you or your partner will need to call the number we provide you with to inform them that you have gone into labour and are in hospital. You can then be assured that thewill do the rest to ensure a successful collection.
8. What happens if I move abroad?
This is not a problem. If you ever need the cord stem cells for therapy, they will be shipped in a vessel that keeps them frozen for up to 5 days (this will cover transporting the cells to virtually anywhere in the world), so there will be no loss of viability. The cells are only thawed at the clinic where they will be used.
9. Have you released any samples for transplant?
Yes we have. We have released 10 cord blood units that have been processed and stored at our facility on behalf of clients; two recently this year to treat Cerebral Palsy. For more information about this and the other 4000 samples that we have provided to the NHS and private hospitals for transplantation please click here.
10. How can I be sure that my child’s stem cells will continue to be stored safely if Biovault Family were to cease trading?
This is where Biovault Family is unique and stands out from other companies providing cord blood & cord tissue banking in the private sector.
We know that you are investing in the future of your baby’s and family’s health. This is a long term investment and you need to be sure that your investment is safe. Biovault Family has set up an Escrow Account with an independent company, where the money you pay for storage goes into an account which is held in trust by an independent third party ensuring that there are sufficient funds to carry on storing your stem cells whatever happens to us.
If you have any other questions please do not hesitate to contact us, you are welcome to speak to our company doctor.
BSc (Hons) Microbiology
Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.